Harpsichordist Revels in French Baroque


Staunton, Virginia (October 26, 2016) – Versailles. The very name calls to mind images of incredible splendor, refinement, royalty. For generations, the sprawling palace situated on the outskirts of Paris functioned as the seat of French power, right up to dynastic overthrow in the Revolution of 1789. Equally important for history, many of the world’s greatest composers were employed at Versailles between the 17th and early 18th centuries. The court’s musical life was the envy of Europe.

carsten-schmidt-300x199This Sunday afternoon harpsichordist Carsten Schmidt, artistic director of the Staunton Music Festival, will perform a solo recital of music by several of Versailles’ signature composers. Having surveyed all of Bach’s keyboard works over the past six years, Schmidt is excited to present the best harpsichord music from France. “The [French] style is so completely different than Bach,” says Schmidt. “It sits differently under the hands and really focuses more on color and texture. Parisian composers discovered so much variety within the instrument, and it’s a joy to bring that whole world to life through the music.”

Among the composers featured on Sunday’s concert are Jean-Philippe Rameau, Henri d’Anglebert, and Antoine Forquerary. Rameau’s name is often recalled because he was an influential music theorist, one who literally “wrote the book” on harmony. But he was a fantastic composer as well, and Schmidt has programmed Rameau’s Suite in E Minor—a collection of typical Baroque dances. D’Anglebert and Forqueray both worked for Louis XIV, providing both original music for formal and informal occasions. The latter man also served as music teacher to the princes and princesses.

Carsten Schmidt enjoys a flourishing career as a pianist, harpsichordist, and conductor, and has performed widely throughout Europe, North America, and Asia. He has been heard in performance from Carnegie Hall to the Moscow Conservatory. His repertoire ranges from the early Baroque to new works, of which he has premiered more than 100. Schmidt teaches at Sarah Lawrence College in New York and concurrently directs the Staunton Music Festival and an international chamber music festival in his hometown of Bochum, Germany.

Tickets are available in advance at Black Swan Books (1 East Beverley St.) and will be on sale at the door.

WHAT:   Versailles: Music by French Baroque composers on period harpsichord
WHEN:   Sunday, November 6 at 4:00 pm
WHERE:   Faith Lutheran Church, 17 North Lewis Street, Staunton, VA
COST:   Adult $22; senior $20; college $8; ages 18 and under free